By Jacqueline Grima
Poets and academics from all over the North West gathered at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) this week for the first meeting of the North West Poetry and Poetics Network.
Hosted by Antony Rowland, Professor of Modern and Contemporary Poetry at MMU, the afternoon began with a critical reading from Professor Rainer Emig of the University of Leibniz in Hanover. Professor Emig, whose talk was entitled ‘WH Auden and the Problems of Public Poetry’, discussed how Auden’s poetry gained a new popularity in the 1990s when it was featured in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral. One of Auden’s poems, ‘September 1st 1939′, about his experience of the Second World War, was also adopted by the city of New York as a way of expressing the community’s devastation after the 9/11 attacks. According to Professor Emig, these uses of Auden’s poetry in such a public capacity highlight the contradicting roles that poetry has as both an intensely personal and a very public experience.
Next came a critical reading from MMU’s Senior Lecturer in American Literature, Dr Nikolai Duffy, introduced by his colleague Dr Angelica Michelis. Dr Duffy’s reading, entitled ‘Nohow: Poetry, Privacy and Local Communities’, focussed on poetry’s role in modern society. With sales of published poetry falling, and poetry appearing to be a branch of the publishing industry that is not ‘economically viable’, Dr Duffy discussed how modern-day poets and independent poetry presses need more support in order to increase poetry’s profile. He went on to stress, with a reference to American poet, Rosemarie Waldrop, how, “the efforts of writing and publishing poetry far exceed any reward,” poetry’s role in society being largely cultural as opposed to economical. Concluding his talk, Dr Duffy stated,
“Poetry needs to fit into the lives of 21st century culture more conveniently. It needs to narrow its focus and stop universalising – it needs to look local, it needs to be cheap or, better still, free. It needs to stop looking to posterity and look at the now. It can still be beautiful and thoughtful and provocative but it needs to redefine how it thinks of itself and how it thinks of how it relates to culture generally. It needs to be small scale and local and independent publishers have no choice but to confront this reality.”
He finished with a tongue-in-cheek suggestion that a ‘Spotify’ for poetry may be something to consider.
The final speaker of the afternoon was Dr Judy Kendall, Senior Lecturer in English and Creative Writing at the University of Salford. Dr Kendall read from her latest poetry collection Insatiable Carrot, reciting poems entitled ‘Anyway Chaffinch’, ‘Done with Gardening’ and ‘My Northern Flowerbed’ which was a runner-up in the 2013 International Cinnamon Press Poetry Competition. All poems from the collection were inspired by, “beauty in the rhythm of gardening,” which Dr Kendall discovered when she decided to spend some time away from her computer in order to establish the impact a change of surroundings would have on her work. Dr Kendall concluded her reading by reciting a poem she had written on cabbage leaves.
Asked about the success of the event, Professor Rowland told Humanity Hallows,
“We are hoping to meet up twice a year possibly at other venues throughout the North West and we have already had an offer from the University of Manchester to host the next meeting. Today’s event was very well attended which is all I could wish for.”
For more information regarding the North West Poetry and Poetics Network, contact Professor Rowland at email@example.com
Jacqueline Grima is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing. When not writing, she loves listening to music, going to concerts and baking. Follow her on Twitter @GrimaJgrima